It has been another positive week on Tyneside as United cruised to a 3-0 win over relegation rivals Southampton at St.James’; a win that will hopefully be crucial in staying up. The chronic lack of investment is well documented under the Mike Ashley tenure but the last two windows in particular have been hard to take. We all know Rafa is a world class manager and another way he is proving it at the moment is his ability to coach and improve players. With the lack of investment this is just as well but for a few players’ form, Rafa deserves great credit.
The Toon skipper has continued to improve miraculously since arriving on Tyneside from Nottingham Forest. After a solid showing in the back end of the last Premier League, campaign, his current form is all the more impressive considering difficulties he had in the Championship last year. He often looked shaky and cumbersome on the ball last year but has been a rock this term. His outstanding leadership has created a real unity between the players, manager and fans and our goals conceded almost doubles when he doesn’t play.
Still just 24, he is only going to get better and working alongside some of Bentiez’ character can only enhance his fame further. On current form he should be in the England shake up soon.
After missing a large chunk of early season through injury, Dummett is arguably playing the best football of his career right now. The Southampton game seemed like a real breakthrough for him, it was the first time I have heard fans signing his name and although not always easy on the eye, fans recognise how a key part of a solid backline.
His positioning seems to have improved massively under Rafa, where he used to get caught on the diagonal ball too much or not close a winger down enough to stop a cross coming in. He will never be an attacking threat like the likes of Danny Rose but he is a good character, is improving and left back now doesn’t seem as big as a weak spot as we first thought at the start of the campaign.
Perhaps the most remarkable transformation has been in Diame, who since the turn of the year has been a different player. Rafa now lets him thrive in a deeper role in the middle of the field after a very disappointing stint in the number 10 role last year.
I think we all questioned his inclusion in the team, myself included, this season as Diame struggled badly. Merino has went off the boil but take nothing away from Diame, he has turned his season round and has a great partnership now with Shelvey. His transformation is another that Rafa should be pleased with.
Perhaps not quite as clear as the other three but under the radar Yedlin has gradually improved under Rafa. In and out the team last year and often dropped for Anita, he has steadily improved his defensive skills which do still remain a concern in his game. With us being predominantly hard to beat, he may not have the licence to go forward and use his pace as much as he likes but he certainly reads the game better this season. After all, he has been a regular in a defence that now has conceded less goal than Arsenal this season as well know we lack firepower, his improvement has been important to the team.
Who do you think has stepped up this season?